Political Ecology of the World Food System

Food System

Unintended Consequences of Pursuing Cheap Food

We have become accustomed to pursuing cheap food. On surface, it is a rational choice. The cheaper the food we buy to eat and drink the better, as the assumption goes. Coupled with this understandable human desire is the ubiquitous corporate advertising of cheap food and business attempts to convince the consumers that the cheap food offers much greater variety of choices than otherwise would be possible. Most consumers fall for these marketing strategies. But there are at least two unintended consequences of pursuing cheap food. Cheap food — more precisely, what we buy as “cheap food” — is unhealthy, which we are choosing consciously. And cheap may be not as “cheap” as we assume. There are evidences showing that pursuing cheap food may lead to food crisis and hunger.

In our culture, we are fascinated by the word “choice.

” We always want to have as many options as possible. And manufacturers, including food corporations, skillfully exploit this cultural pattern for their own benefit. Using elaborate packaging and cool-sounding names, food producers come up with new products every year, introducing around 15-20,000 new food products to the market. We have lost track of the effects of this, assuming that these varieties offer us greater choices. In reality, as Patel argues, “we dont really choose our food — our food chooses us. . . . Most of what we consider our choices at the consumer end of the food system have been narrowed and shaped before we even begin to think consciously about them” (Patel 253, 255). As Patel further explains, the choices are made for us by the food corporations whose ultimate purpose is maximizing their profit. Even nutritional science.